Royal Opera House sells Hockney painting for £12.9m

The Royal Opera House has sold its painting of former chief executive David Webster for GBP12.9m (€14.2m). Painted by David Hockney, it was originally commissioned by Webster’s staff to mark his retirement in 1970.

Auction house Christie’s sold the painting on 22 October in a digital auction that was split between Paris and London. Originally they estimated its value between GBP11m and GBP18m.

Current ROH chief executive Alex Beard said the sale was an essential part of the company’s COVID survival strategy: “the proceeds will be used to ensure that the world’s greatest artists can once more return to our stages.”

He added that ROH would also cut staff, launch a private fundraising campaign and seek further government support. He did not rule out the sale of more assets.

However BECTU, the union representing ROH staff, said the sale would not save jobs.

“I don’t think it’s going to save any jobs at the moment,” said BECTU national secretary Noel McClean in an interview with Sky. “I think what’s happening is the redundancy consultations and the other negotiations we’re involved in in themselves do not put the ROH on secure financial footing.”